After 13 matches and 148 points, the sixth Battle of Far Hills between Fairmont and Centerville came down to one match last year.
Trailing 35-29, Fairmont needed a pin to tie the dual high school wrestling match and had returning district placer Ryan Huffman up. Centerville was countering with freshman Colton Hale. Huffman had Hale on his back in the second period and Hale had Huffman in the same situation moments later, raising the noise level of a packed Centerville High School.
When the final whistle blew on a 10-5 Huffman win, the Elks student section rushed the floor to celebrate the 35-32 win.
“Our dual with Centerville last year was the most intense dual I’ve ever been involved in,” Fairmont coach Frank Baxter said. “If we had to meet them a few weeks later in order to advance in the tournament, the intensity would be unbelievable.”
That scenario may play out this winter.
In addition to the annual postseason individual tournament, the Ohio High School Athletic Association will debut a state dual meet tournament in January this season. The OHSAA will run the state duals using the same format as the basketball tournament. Schools will be divided into regions of 24 for all three divisions with teams being seeded. The top seeds will serve as the host sites for the regional quarterfinals on Jan. 23.
The highest remaining seed in each regional will host the regional semifinals on Jan. 30 with the finals being held on Feb. 9 at St. John Arena in Columbus.
The new format replaces the old state duals tournament that based the eight teams that participated on points scored by underclassmen in the previous year’s district. The change was long lobbied for by former Versailles wrestling Bill Roll with Baxter and Hamilton athletic director Mike Dellapina on the current committee.
Dellapina was an athletic director in Michigan where the format has been in place for several years and enjoys the excitement a dual can provide.
“You can get your home fans behind it, especially as you move through the rounds,” Dellapina said. “The excitement of the dual is something that fans miss out on and it is an opportunity for more kids to play a part in the success.”
A lot of coaches think it will take a year or so for the new format to catch on, but believe it may show the true test of who the best team in the state is.
“This new format is great because it gives a measure of what makes a great dual team, as opposed to what makes a great tournament team,” Eaton coach Marc Silvers said. “You can have a great tournament team with four to five great kids who will always be in the finals and maybe 9-10 below average wrestlers that rarely place. But to be a great dual team you have to have 10 solid kids.”
The best part about the new format is time.
A dual meet typically runs the same amount of time as a basketball or football game. A bracket tournament can take 12 hours in a gym.
“I’ll take a good dual between two equal teams over any bracketed tournament final anytime,” Butler coach Mark Peck said. “The older I get, I get bored and sleepy at big tournaments. We sit around and wait forever for our wrestlers to compete. Duals are great for fans whether new or a veteran. It is more of social event, much like a football or basketball game.”
While Centerville coach Alan Bair aims for his squad to make it to the elite eight, Graham coach Jeff Jordan is still eyeing winning a 13th straight state title in March.
“My number one goal is to crown as many individual state champions and win the individual tournament,” Jordan said. “It is the final event of the year and for me is still the Super Bowl.”